A Newcastle University team analysed the results of 1,000 tests carried out on workers at local hospitals in March.
They found the number of front-line workers testing positive was no different to that of staff working in non-clinical roles.
This is “reassuring for front-line healthcare workers and suggests that PPE is effective”, they say.
In the study, published in a letter to The Lancet, staff at two hospitals in Newcastle were offered tests, with results returned in two days. Local GPs and paramedics were also eligible.
The staff fell into three groups:
- those dealing directly with patients (nurses, doctors, porters)
- staff who did not see patients but might be at greater risk of hospital infection (cleaners, lab staff)
- non-clinical staff (clerical, admin, IT)Researchers at Newcastle University and Newcastle Hospitals found no evidence of a significant difference between the three groups, with rates of infection of 15% in the first group, 16% in the second, and 18% in the third.
The data also gives an insight into the growth of the epidemic in England, with signs of “flattening” after the introduction of social distancing measures.
“We got a glimpse into the epidemiology of the Covid pandemic in England,” said Dr Duncan.
“And we got evidence, although it’s not direct proof, that the social distancing measures introduced by the government are having an impact on the spread of coronavirus in England.”